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Line breaks: harsh
Pronunciation: /hɑːʃ

Definition of harsh in English:


1Unpleasantly rough or jarring to the senses: drenched in a harsh white neon light harsh guttural shouts
More example sentences
  • The walls were painted a serene light yellow, even though the bright white lights lit the room in such a harsh, unforgiving light.
  • His attempt to shout to the last row makes his voice unpleasantly harsh.
  • After the gentle, sensuous vowels of Latin-American, this language sounds harsh, cruel, authoritarian.
2Cruel or severe: a time of harsh military discipline
More example sentences
  • They were strict, cruel, harsh and made you feel guilty very easily.
  • As far as he was concerned, it was society that was cruel, harsh and utterly ruthless to children who were alone and orphaned.
  • Robbins's disciplinarianism won him a reputation as a harsh and cruel taskmaster.
2.1(Of a climate or conditions) difficult to survive in; hostile: the harsh environment of the desert
More example sentences
  • The Chinese character refers to a kind of plant that can survive in harsh conditions and it also sounds the same as ‘difficult’ in Chinese.
  • It has proven to be fully adaptable to its habitat, well-suited to survive in harsh climates with their tough hide and wily brain.
  • Bulbs have evolved to survive in harsh climates, to withstand winter cold, or summer drought, or both.
2.2(Of reality or a fact) grim and unpalatable: the harsh realities of the world news
More example sentences
  • There's nothing like leaving familiar surroundings and then returning for helping you to cope with this harsh fact of reality: no one is indispensable.
  • He offers sensible advice and protects the younger men from the harsh realities of the grim fate that lies ahead.
  • On this occasion it is his aides who are getting a lesson in the harsh realities of the medium is the message.
2.3Having an undesirably strong effect: she finds soap too harsh and drying
More example sentences
  • Others feel borak, and other forms of alcohol, may have a harsh effect on their stomachs, and find that their tendency to fall straight off to sleep after half a glass is a bit inconvenient.
  • Evaporation is faster (and accompanied by a slower loss of strength) in a dry cellar, resulting in an undesirably harsh style of brandy.
  • Sometimes I can feel the pool emptying, drying up under a harsh sun.
abrasive, strong, caustic;
coarse, rough, bristly, hairy, scratchy


Middle English: from Middle Low German harsch 'rough', literally 'hairy', from haer 'hair'.



Example sentences
  • ‘Caution,’ the robot said, its voice harshened by static.
  • In his effort to capture her countenance, he worked the face too hard, the pencil revolving from an oval to sharper lines that harshened her face.
  • Sitting in a creaking chair opposite him was Esmeril, his tired face harshened by the deep shadows that covered it.


Example sentences
  • Certainly it paints an often harshly satirical picture of the Way We Live Now in this part of the world.
  • They are claiming unfair dismissal, arguing that they were treated much more harshly than her.
  • I do criticise them very harshly, they have really done nothing for the rural community.


Example sentences
  • A multitude of factors can be used to explain the barbaric harshness of Pol Pot's regime.
  • Whatever the case, lies enable us to smooth over the cold, brutal harshness of reality.
  • Wood is rare enough as a young intellectual interested in religion, but as a critic he has also built a reputation for the harshness of his judgments.

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